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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Sex Isn’t Disorderly Conduct, Student Says

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A high school student sued his school district for suspending him for "disorderly conduct," because a classmate secretly videotaped him having sex with his girlfriend on a school trip to Casablanca.

A.H. sued Schuylkill Valley School District, its Superintendent Solomon Lausch, Principal David Haughney, Assistant Principal Joshua Kuehner, and the classmate who allegedly videotaped the consensual sex, J.H.

A.H. claims he was suspended for 4 days for "disorderly conduct," though the school's code of conduct "does not place any restrictions or prohibits on consensual sexual contact between school students when that conduct does not occur on school property."

A.H., a sophomore at Schuylkill Valley High School when he was suspended, says he should have been given a hearing before punishment was issued.

He claims that the "disorderly conduct" for which he was punished exists only in a "secret disciplinary guideline," but not in his school's handbook or in Pennsylvania law.

A.H.'s girlfriend also was suspended, as was boy who taped them, according to the complaint. Charges are pending in Berks County Juvenile Court against the kid with the camera, the complaint states.

A.H. claims that before the school-sponsored trip to Morocco, which was from March 30 to April 8 this year, he signed a form that stated, "participants in the trip who had sexual conduct could be sent home. This form did not make any statements about other discipline being imposed for sexual conduct."

A.H. says he discovered the sex video as it was circulating among classmates a few days after he returned from the trip, and that his parents found out about the video 10 days later.

After telling it all to his parents, he says, they decided tell school administrators about the video, "in an attempt to seek assistance from school officials to protect plaintiff from further harm."

The family met with an assistant superintendent and assistant principal, who "promised to follow up," according to the complaint. The family then told the police about the video.

On April 25, A.H. says, school officials gave his parents 1 hour's notice of a meeting at which A.H. was sentenced to 4 days out-of-school suspension for a "major offense - Level 2."

Defendants Haughney and Kuehner "explained that they were being lenient on plaintiff due to his cooperation with the police" and told him the superintendent had determined his punishment, A.H. claims.

The next day, when A.H.'s parents asked Superintendent Lausch how he arrived at his punishment, Lausch said "that he did not have to justify or explain how the decision was reached ... the decision was final and [A.H.'s parents] could obtain an attorney if they did not like the outcome," according to the complaint.

An attorney for the school district then told A.H.'s attorney that the boy was "being disciplined for 'disorderly conduct' and that the school would be willing to reconvene the hearing that the plaintiff was entitled to under Pennsylvania law."

A meeting was held on May 14 and all three individual defendants were present along with A.H., his parents and their lawyer. A.H. claims that the defendants "variously took the positions that the meeting was a reconvening of the disciplinary hearing provided for under Pennsylvania law, or that the hearing had already been held, or that the hearing had not been held, but the plaintiff was not entitled to a hearing."

The defendants told the family that A.H. was not entitled to written notice before a hearing, and that to punish him for "disorderly conduct" the district used "a different definition of disorderly conduct" from an unidentifiable source that was not the same as the "disorderly conduct" described under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, according to the complaint.

A.H. says the school has not guidelines or policy for his disorderly conduct.

A.H. seeks damages for defamation, privacy invasion, civil rights violations and emotional distress, and an injunction ordering that all records of the incident be destroyed.

He is represented by Eric Winter.

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